I've been thinking about story - and how it works for me - these past couple of months, probably because I've been writing a lot of short pieces and reading a whole lot of books. And each time I read a book or write a story, I figure out a little more what works for me when I'm reading - or writing - stories.
And here's the key for me - it's an emotional one. And when I say that, that's exactly what I mean. There needs to be an emotional underpinning to a story. And I don't mean for the story, exactly, but rather to the feeling I as the reader get when I read it. It doesn't mean that the characters in the story are unhappy or happy but rather that I end up with an emotional key to read the book with.
I don't know if this makes a whole lot of sense because I've really only just figured it out and I'm not sure exactly how to translate this to language - it's a feeling and I can't put it in words in a way that'll make sense to me, let alone to you.
But I'll give you an example. I notice it more, and more concretely, when I'm reading poetry and the poem that comes first to mind for me is one of my very favourites - Yeats' The Second Coming. I realize that this is a bit obvious - but it's the language that draws me in, that makes me feel, not just the subject matter.
It's very short, but has got tremendous impact. See what you think:
THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?